Happy Prostateria! In honor of Apollon’s birthday, I finally finished this article!
Happy Birthday, my Prince, and may You receive the love of many new devotees in the coming hours, weeks, and years! Hail Apollon Prostaterios, Lord Before the Doors!
So, over the last few weeks (months maybe) I’ve received this question from a few different people, which is basically: How does one properly begin a relationship with Apollon?
Now, I can only tell you my own experience in starting a relationship with Him, keeping in mind also that I had a relationship with Him long before I knew it *was* Him. If you can understand that my approach to this article will be based from that experience, then I think we can begin. Though, I will try to keep this as generic as possible.
If you are looking for all the traditionally Hellenic approaches to His worship, then may I suggest taking a look at this article written by Lykeia, wherein she lays out the basics.
To begin, let me say that Apollon is among the most flexible Deities I’ve ever encountered, in the sense that He will willingly and often eagerly work with new and aspiring devotees within the tradition they are most comfortable or familiar. This means, if you are Wiccan, Neo-Pagan, or something else entirely, He probably isn’t going to demand that you stop immediately and only honor Him in a Hellenic context. I’ve also noticed that Apollon is one of the most syncretic-friendly Gods out there. So while He’ll readily work with us in ways we already know, He does like to push us outside of our comfort zones, even if it only amounts to an intellectual exercise, and not any kind of syncretic worship practices. Although, that can and does happen, especially if you are involved in anything Roman and/or Gaulish.
When I “began” a relationship with Him is better explained as when I began relating to Him as Apollon, as opposed to the Nameless Spirit who’d been following me around since I was four years old. The only thing that changed was that He finally gave me a name to go along with the energy I was well accustomed to. And I’ll be honest, having *that* name thrown out of the ether at the same time I was given my first statue of Him (I kid you not– I did not even want a statue of Apollon at the time) caused a whole lot of freaking out. So much so, that I blatantly ignored Him and His calling for at least a couple of years. It was during this time that Dionysos and Hermes showed up in my life and basically started guiding me right back to Apollon, but I digress.
Skipping now to when I not only knew it was Him, but was also ready to honor Him, the first thing I did was go online and find everything I could relating to His lore, as well as seek out information on appropriate offerings. What I learned about offerings was that if all else fails (meaning you just can’t think of anything), falling back on the traditional is a good place to start. So, milk, honey, a mixture of both (after warming the milk a bit), olive oil, wine cut with water, or just water are all fair and acceptable offerings that He will appreciate.
When giving these offerings/libations do so sincerely. Do so with honest words of praise. But don’t get too hung up on whether or not you walked a procession beforehand, or whether you need fancy bowls for His altar or shrine. When I started giving Him offerings I simply poured or left them upon the Earth. Remember that He is receiving not the physical aspect of the offering, but the spiritual aspect that is entwined within your adoration.
If you happen to be a witch or Wiccan, you may be familiar with dressing and charging candles with your intent. Lovingly charged candles are another gift that He received from me in our early days, and I never once got a negative impression from Him about it.
So, in short, just be yourself. Be unequivocally who you are. Follow your tradition, but be open to His guidance in new directions. First and foremost Apollon demands that we know ourselves, and in that knowing we will find what is most proper for us in our relationships with Him– and this includes the knowledge of what is within, and what is beyond our price range.
Some may say the expense of the wine (for instance) will determine how well received it is. That is not my experience. Apollon has never asked me to overreach my finances just to show Him how devoted I am. He is not a selfish God who demands that we put ourselves at risk or into debt as a means of pleasing Him. That is certainly not to say that He doesn’t appreciate a fancy spread or expensive trinket every now and then. Just don’t skip the bills or other important matters to do it. In many ways, Apollon is the God of Adulting, and adults usually take care of the necessities before any indulgences.
Now I want to talk about the lore. Those who are familiar with His exploits may already know how utterly frightening He can seem, and be on occasion. These stories are very layered and reveal even some mysteries about Him, and about nature, that have yet to be comprehended. What was learned in the past is not the totality of knowledge to be imparted upon human civilization. So, if Apollon leads you toward an alternate view of Himself, or of a certain event, allow yourself to experience it before casting it aside if it doesn’t fit well with your current views. You can always revisit it later, if it’s warranted. And remember, we are all not going to interpret the lore in the same ways. The stories are so nuanced that many can be taken quite literally, as well as allegorically. Some may reveal aspects of His personality that we may not wish to encounter, but they are there and they are real, and we should be aware of them.
How do you see your relationship manifesting? Is it romantic? Is it platonic? Is it familial? Is it business? Is it artistic? A combination? Only you and He may determine the final outcome, and it is a wonderful experience just deciding and going forward with the decision.
Some other things to ponder are of course which days or times of day you will set aside for Him. Having a regular meeting time is very beneficial. Not only does it ensure that you and He will have this time to focus on your relationship and its goals, it will slowly attune you to His energy, and you may eventually find yourself communing with Him at unexpected times, and without need of any accouterments.
A basic starting point for this, beyond celebrating a few of His major holidays throughout the year, is to pick a day of the week or month (lunar or Julian, or from whatever calendar you follow) which feels especially attuned to His domain. The seventh, twentieth, and twenty-first days of the month are all sacred to Apollon. Sundays and Mondays are also significant as one or the other is seen as the start of the week. Sunday is obvious because of Apollon’s associations with light and the Sun itself, while Monday may seem a bit more obscure, but as Monday relates to the Moon, Apollon as Noumenios, who ushers in the first sliver of moonlight after the Deipnon, is appropriately honored on that day of the week, just as He is honored on the Noumenia itself.
And this talk of Noumenios provides the perfect segue into the discussion of epithets, which, while not strictly necessary if one is approaching the God through non-traditionally Hellenic means, are still helpful in establishing connections with the aspects of Apollon’s personality and domain that one desires to encounter. Because He is so large and so powerfully entrenched within both the natural and civilized worlds, narrowing our focus onto a very specific portion of His power will enable us to approach Him from a position of relative safety. It will also enable Him to guide us down a more narrow pathway than we might otherwise see, which is helpful for maintaining our sanity, for we humans can not touch all aspects of Him (or any God) at any one time, and to try to do so courts destruction on many levels.
Now, on destruction– that which Apollon brings to all that is stagnant and no longer worthy or needed. As He brings destruction in the lore, He may also bring it into our lives, and in a variety of ways. For what is katharmos (purification), but the destruction of miasma (pollution)? What is the sting of His arrow, but the destruction of ego? Apollon is the Destroyer, and in our workings with Him, and in our honoring of Him, we should never forget who and what He is.
Destruction can be as much of a comfort as a curse, largely depending on the circumstances. For instance, Apollon Pythios, the Rotting Lord of the Cemeteries, destroys the body after death so that the soul may rise to a new existence. This frees the individual, but saddens their family and friends. Apollon’s iconography and methodology may be frightening, but the role He plays in the furtherance of life can not be overstated. We are all of us the products of continuous creation and destruction. This is what it means to live. So, when we develop relationships with Him, we must be willing to remake ourselves in accordance with what we learn about ourselves, through Him. If we are willing to do that, then we need not fear our Benevolent Lord.
In closing, to begin an effective relationship with Apollon, you need only want to, while acting as your authentic self. Bring what you have to the table and He will meet you there with sincerity, and often, also with love. Be open. Be not rigid in your thinking. And above all, be aware.
By Lykeia, Jan. 21, 2015
Inspired by a friend’s comment today, and the fact that at sundown tonight we celebrate the Noumenia and so honor Apollon Noumenios, I wanted to take a moment to talk about giving offerings to Apollon. I rarely have given much consideration to touching on this topic because I figured that this was something so rudimentary that most of my readers would not be interested in it. However, it turns out that may not be the case and there may very well be *someone* out there who will find it helpful who are feeling a bit lost in the establishment of their relationship with Apollon through offerings in worship.
Unlike most of us who may have grown up going to church in which services comprises solely of singing and listening to a pastor (more or less) with the occasional communion type of service perhaps thrown in which confirms the Christian believer’s faith in their god and is their manner of giving worship, the presenting of offerings to the gods is perhaps the most core part of worship in polytheism. Music is of course not excluded from worship, nor is dance and other forms of devotion, but usually speaking there is some kind of substance offered in which you are “feeding” the gods. This is an important basic part of establishing and developing and confirming your relationship with the god or goddess in question. This offering is often encased in traditional methodology of procedures, gestures and symbols that tends to differ from culture to culture. For instance, Roman worship tends to be a lot more complicated in its formulaic manner than Greek worship. During my brief time with Nova Roma I did memorize each of the individual gestures performed for approaching the altar, addressing the god, praying, and presenting the offering. In contrast the Greek rituals have two primary gestures dealing with communing with the god: one in which the hands are raised palm up (although some say that to chthonic gods one should have the palms down), and another where the hand is raised above the head in a kind of crowning gesture. Unlike the previously described Roman gestures, these gestures are not sequential but are alternative…either one works.
Of course the ritual for individual gods is within the same traditional cultural context that is used for other gods. That is to say, there is little variance in how one would give offerings to Apollon than how one would do for say Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus etc. The ritual construction can be seen as the common road of spiritual travel in which the gods have a history of recognizing. There of course may be personal variations, but general the whole of the ritual in its skeletal form looks pretty similar. The only thing that I tend to leave out as a solitary worshiper unless I am worshipping in with a body of people (which has happened a total of one time) is the procession. Likewise if you are doing rituals in your home which has a permanent home/altar for the gods there is less necessity for purifying the area as our altars and shrines tend to be purified with our household in monthly rites at the Deipnon.
With Apollon the matter of giving offerings and worship gets a bit more complicated because it depends on where you are giving the offerings. Many people who are devoted to him will likely keep an individual shrine or altar for Apollon in addition to his usual place in the household before the doorway where he is represented as upright stone (traditionally a black stone…I am still looking for the perfect black stone myself and so using a white quartz stone instead at the moment). At the doorway the manner of giving offerings to Apollon tends to be rather simple, usually involved garlanding his stone in some manner, usually with laurel, and pouring libations directly over the stone. This more simple method is largely due to being a daily activity as people are entering and leaving the household to protect the integrity of the household as well as the person who is leaving/arriving. There is no flame lit, Apollon is a constant presence residing there in that stone by his own representation as being the very form of the stone itself. This is a trait he shares with Hermes as well as a couple of other gods who have similar forms. As the god is installed at the property and is functioning at the property, feeding him there at the stone reaffirms his establishment there and his protections there. It is done on behalf of the household in general, and really is not part of building one’s own relationship with him in a very significant way.
In the case of a shrine or altar in which you are inviting the presence of a god in your ritual is where you come down to the regular interaction and relationship building with the god. It is here where you are presenting gifts to the god to establish Kharis with him. For most worshippers this may be irregularly, at certain important feasts and holidays (such as in celebration of his birthday), for those who are devoted to him or are interested in developing their relationship more with the god this may be weekly, monthly or daily. Although the stone for Apollon Agyieus is still normally adorned and receives libations, the actual ceremonial offerings for Apollon Noumenios occurs within the household. I would consider this a kind of banquet of Apollon in which Apollon may be a primary deity being honored…a guest of honor, but in which all the other gods of the household are also provided for.
At this point I should divert off course for a moment and talk about offerings. In many cases when giving offerings for multiple gods it is best to give offerings which are satisfactory to gods present, unless you have the ability to give a separate offering to each god. Usually for Hellenic gods this comprises of fatty meats and bones, wine and breads/cakes, in addition to some kind of fumigation of incense (typically frankincense tends to be the usual). Of course in times where I am giving individual offerings to Apollon I may include other incenses he seems to favor (such as cinnamon, sandalwood and rose for starters) and can give libations of things such as rum, honeyed-wine and mead. Raw honey and milk are also great offerings for him. Now some like these brought to the altar with all pomp in special decorated vessels, which is a lovely idea and special vessels can affirm who the offering is for in a very visual symbolic manner (and a reason why there are historical cases in which special cups and vessels were reserved for the worship of specific gods..more commonly in Roman worship but not rare in Greek worship). At best I have special offering bowls that are permanently on my altars. If you are not doing some community procession to the altar I tend to recommend you already have the vessels of the offerings on the altar or on a table near the altar (I use my coffee table as my altars are all accessible from my living room at this point where I am living).
As I said before, if you are giving worship in your house purification of the area, unless there is some specific reason why you feel that the sacred space may have been violated or polluted, is not necessary as it has been taken care of with the vigorous cleansings and purifications that occur monthly. However, if you are in a new space or outdoors, sprinkling the area with khernips, lustral water, is a good idea. Also performed is the scattering of barley. Indoors this tends to be messy and problematic, so I have adapted this custom to a jar of barley on my altar which, before the ritual begins, I remove the lid and take out a handful of barley, offerings prayers to the gods as I let it fall from my hands back down into the vessel on the altar…symbolically dropping barley grains down on the altar. This purpose of the ritual act is the same if carried out a bit differently. Afterwards the flame of Hestia is lit, she who carries by her flames all offerings to the gods. Again, in household worship this tends to be symbolic as most are not in position to burn food offerings in the course of ritual, but does work in offerings of incense as a manner of releasing the perfume into the air for consumption by the gods. And before you start thinking that as Apollon is a fiery deity himself and therefore offerings to Hestia is unnecessary, I will be quick to point out that Apollon himself adores Hestia (as demonstrated in the myth in which he and Poseidon competed to marry her) and she had a prominent place of honor at a large hearth within his temple. Hestia’s presence is absolutely necessary regardless.
When it ritual there is a part of calling the attention of the god, and a secondary part of presenting the offerings. The former part tends to be stressed the most in literary works. Ancient plays often have lovely invocations of the gods in which the worshiper calls on the attention of the god in question. People often feel inspired to use these traditional prayers, whether particular invocative lines from a play, or, more often, from actual poems and hymns penned for the gods by ancient poets. The Homeric hymns commonly get used, as do the Orphic Hymns. And there are folks out there who are writing modern “hymns” for the gods that can be seen all over the internet, myself included! If you want to do it off the cuff, or compose something yourself, these usually include a greeting to the god, an adoration of the god (recognize the power of the god), recognition of a time that the god has helped you (if applicable), and other praise and invitation (the last part is especially noticeable in the Orphic hymns. This part never gets old, and becomes part of the most meaningful part of your worship. I go back and forth myself between off the cuff and ancient prayers as I feel inspired to do…and often I will do both! You are not only entreating the god to be present but also welcoming him, and celebrating his presence.
Manners of presenting offerings tends to vary from worshiper to worshiper. It seems as long as you are calling attention to the deity that you are offering this item on behalf of yourself (presumably your household too) and anyone else you wish to include, that this works well enough. I tend to go off the cuff with various poetic things that come to mind when I am giving offerings, but people who are just starting may be more comfortably having written formula that will make the offering meaningful and less nerve-wracking. Generally speaking it doesn’t have to be anything more than this:
” O lord Apollon, (fill in any meaningful epithets you want to address), please accept this offering of wine/incense/cake/etc that you may feast upon it and it may please you. Accept this offering I present to you on behalf of myself, my household (fill in anyone else you want to include) in thanks (you can include specific things you are thanking him for) and that you continue to bestow your blessings upon me/us (can also include anything in particular you need his help with more immediately).”
The offering is either traditional, or can be anything that you find is particularly pleasing to the deity. For instance it is usual to have some kind of pork offering for Apollon Noumenios, which may or may not have also something to do with the sacrifice of pigs to Apollon in the Eleusinia. As your ritual is about your relationship with the god, the only mandatory thing with offerings is that it is something the god enjoys, and if said god has any taboos on certain types of offerings that these are observed. And no, there is no taboo against alchohol with Apollon, as I have said before in my blog (and will readdress here) this is an assumption usually based on a particular rule regarding the Pythian games mixed with Neitzche dichotomy ideas where anything of Dionysos would be offensive given to Apollon. There is nothing, however, to support this and I have found this is definitely not the case…especially not for a god that the Orphic hymns call Bacchic.
After the offering you can include any kind of devotional activity to honor the god while he is present at your ritual, this often includes singing (or some form of music), dancing (my preference), or any further gifts you want to give or anointing of the statue, or any dedications you wish to make. This is the celebratory/festive part of the ritual if it is being done for a festival or any kind of special occasion (or if you just really want to just because). This is often a good time to focus on what form of the god you are honoring and for what purpose (in which most events ongoing would have been tied to this concept).
I do want to note that if you are including other gods in the ritual, which is common, that in my experience it is best to include them before Apollon (or whatever god is the primary god being worshiped), in that manner while you have invited and given offerings to “guest” gods and goddesses, the rest of the event stays on target of the main deity in question. The occasion remains about him while the other gods get to partake. For myself, I include the gods of the Orphic month that I am worshiping in and Zeus and Hera usually.
Finally the ritual concludes with a final offering to Hestia in thanks to her.
Well that is about it in a nutshell. If I have forgotten to write anything down I do apologize, but mostly I hope that someone has found this helpful!